Summer Camps for Positive Development
Each year, millions of children attend summer camp. Families send their children to day or residential camps for many reasons – perhaps the child is looking for adventure, or maybe he needs to continue academic work once the school year has ended.
There is another reason to consider summer camp that goes beyond giving your child a unique recreational activity or an academic edge – research shows that attending a summer camp, particularly one accredited by the American Camp Association (ACA), actually promotes healthy youth development in terms of four developmental domains:
- Positive identity
- Social skills
- Physical and thinking skills
- Positive values
A 2006 study showed conclusively that summer camps not only promote positive youth development while the child attends camp, but that the benefits extend beyond summertime and into the academic year.
Researchers collected data from 80 camps, all ACA accredited, which is notable “because such camps must comply with a rigorous set of up to 300 standards of health, safety, program, and management.” Camp Pacific, for example, is ACA accredited, and it is evaluated yearly according to updated standards to maintain its status.
The researchers administered a questionnaire to campers, their parents, and camp counselors. Questions were designed to measure ten different areas of development including leadership, self-confidence, independence, and values. Campers and parents were asked to answer the questions “on a 4-point Likert scale: Disagree a Lot, Disagree a Little, Agree a Little, and Agree a Lot.”
Questionnaires were completed before camp started, on the penultimate day of camp, and six months following the end of camp. Camp counselors provided observations of participating students under their direct supervision to the researchers at the beginning and end of camp.
Both campers and their parents reported growth from pre-camp to post-camp. Further, six months after the end of camp, both groups indicated that the personal growth was maintained. In fact, “in the case of Independence, Leadership, Social Comfort, and Peer Relationships, there were additional, statistically significant gains over postcamp levels.” Counselors also indicated significant growth in the campers in all four developmental areas.
It was determined that positive development occurring during camp was due to the experience of being at camp itself, not just a result of natural growth over the course of the summer. “Growth at camp significantly exceeded growth attributable to maturation alone,” and “camp may spark and perhaps even accelerate growth in certain domains long after immersion in the camp environment is over.”
Choosing a Camp
Our summer programs include Leadership, Recreational, and Academic options, offered to boys and girls, ages 10-17. Whether you’re looking to improve your child’s leadership abilities, offer a unique adventure on the California coast, or continue academic growth through the summer, we have a camp to fit your needs.
Beyond the camp’s specific focus, you can expect to see growth in your child in many other areas. “Simply stated, positive youth development is the outcome of a combination of challenging opportunities and supportive relationships.”
ANA Summer Programs offer this ideal environment for positive growth, and it provides opportunities for campers to develop peer relationships, decision-making skills, self-confidence, and leadership, among many other qualities. It is truly a unique opportunity that can lead to growth far beyond summertime.
Thurber, Christopher A., Scanlin, Marge M., Scheuler, Leslie, and Henderson, Karla A. (2007). Youth Development Outcomes of the Camp Experience: Evidence for Multidimensional Growth. Journal of Youth Adolescence, 36(3). Retrieved from http://www.nccamps.org/pdf/Thurber–Youth_and_Adoles.pdf.